DNA evidence may show innocence in old cases

A number of people in Illinois and across the country have been exonerated even many years after a criminal conviction on the basis of DNA evidence examined later on. While DNA evidence is often entered at trial by both the prosecution and the defense, there are circumstances where DNA could be re-examined after a conviction. These kinds of requests, especially for older cases before the routine use of DNA analysis, have become so common that standard procedures have been developed to determine how a new analysis can be requested by those who say they were wrongfully convicted.

Across the country, at least 266 wrongfully convicted people have been freed from prison or had their records wiped clean as a result of post-conviction DNA testing and analysis. There are two ways in which DNA analysis can contribute to winning the release of a previously convicted person from prison. In most cases, the level and clarity of DNA analysis currently available was not accessible at the time of the conviction. The person may be excluded entirely as a result of the analysis or a much higher level of reasonable doubt may be introduced, depending on what is determined by the results.

In order to have their DNA evidence reviewed after conviction, people will generally need to show that the DNA results would have affected the outcome of the trial. There may also be an obligation to act quickly once a person learns of the existence of potential new evidence in an old case. While prosecutors and defense attorneys may agree to reopen testing in some cases, they may clash in other instances.

Despite the advances made in forensic technologies, people continue to face wrongful convictions for criminal charges. A criminal defense attorney may help wrongfully convicted people seek relief through new DNA testing in their cases.

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